They spent night after night playing their hearts out in front of indifferent crowds building a tight band, a unique sound.
They had worked so hard. By now they had auditioned for several of the big record labels but were turned down each time.
Their agent was young and untried, completely new to the industry. However, what he lacked in experience, he made up for it in drive, audacity and hunger for success. These qualities allowed him to book an audition with the famous Decca Records. This was the last chance to secure a deal with a major record label.
As fate would have it, only a few days before the audition the record executive who would determine their fate was injured in a car crash. The audition was pushed to the only open day in the injured exec’s schedule, New Year’s Day.
The band started out in the morning on New Year’s Eve for a four-hour trip to the audition city. There would be plenty of time to get into the hotel and get some rest before the big test. Bad luck or fate forecasted a snowstorm for that day. Thanks to the weather and bad navigation, the four-hour trip took 10. New Year’s festivities were underway by the time they got into town.
Although they were exhausted, the band was ready in the studio at 10 o’clock sharp on New Year’s Day. But due to the previous night’s revelry, the record exec showed up late, and very hungover.
Perhaps it was the inspiration of the hour or pure adrenaline, but the band was “on” that morning. They turned in the usual three songs and were ready for usual dismissal. To the band’s surprise, the exec wanted more. Six songs, nine songs, they kept going. After 15 songs the exec gave them the standard “don’t call us, we’ll call you” response, and everybody went home.
The band was on needles and pins (great name for a song) for weeks waiting for “the call.” Eventually the answer came. It was no. At this point, with the lack of a record deal, the band had to contemplate the pragmatic matter of career change.
The hungry young agent did not accept this as a defeat. He started knocking on doors. A 15-song audition tape had to be worth something. One of the doors he knocked on was a subsidiary label of EMI, Parlophone. It was a small label that mainly handled comedy acts. Its biggest hit to date was a song by the Salvation Army Band.
A maverick young producer at Parlophone found something he liked in the audition tapes. He arranged a meeting with the band. What struck him about the band was not their musical talent. He loved their attitudes and wit. Their songwriting ability also showed great promise. The producer, George Martin, signed the band. He would be essential in guiding the band’s great talent and creativity over the next eight years.
This time the Beatles would fly down to London from Liverpool to begin recording what would be their first hit, “Love Me Do,” on Sept. 4, 1962. And you know how the rest of the story goes.